Sentence Starters

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Vary your sentence structure. How many of us have heard that from our high school English teachers? But what did they mean?

Make your writing more interesting by finding fresh ways to start your sentences. Try these six ideas.


1-Question–Most sentences follow the standard subject/ verb construction. Think of it as your go-to method of writing. It’s a fine way to construct a sentence, unless you use it too many in a row. Mix things up by switching the subject and verb so that your sentence becomes a question.

2-Preposition–Start your sentence with a prepositional phrase. Open an new tab, and search online for preposition lists to help yourself decide which preposition to use when you begin your sentence.

3-ly (adverb)–describe how the action happened and make it seem more immediate by starting your sentence with an adverb that ends in -ly.

4-ing–start this sentence with a verb that ends with an –ing. But make sure you follow this simple rule: whatever is doing the -inging, probably the sentence subject, must follow the comma after the -ing phrase that starts the sentence. Pick two actions happening at the same time.

For example: Running down the hall, the boy tripped when the principal stepped out in front of him.

The boy tripped so he follows the initial -ing phrase.

NOT: Running down the hall, the principal stepped out in front of the boy who tripped.

The principal didn’t do the running, so if he follows the -ing phrase, the reader gets confused. word–These are words that start adverbial phrases, a phrase designed to explain how the action happened. You can choose from any of the following words: when, where, while, as, since, if, although, because.

6-VSS very short sentence. This sentence contains two to five words. It must also contain a subject and a verb.

For example: I came. I saw. I conquered. Each sentence has a subject and a verb.

NOT: Wow! (This doesn’t work because Wow is not a subject or a verb).

Use each sentence opener no more than once in each paragraph. Try to include as many different sentence starters as you can.


Adapted from Institute for Excellence in Writing, used with permission.

copyright Writing for Life 2014